Endless Curiosity

February 27, 2009

Obama’s Speech

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alec @ 5:37 am

Ok, now I regret it, I didn’t watch the speech. A friend sent me a link to an opinion piece by Peggy Noonan in the WSJ which I thought was pretty amazing. A Republican speechwriter praising a Democratic President. The article was titled Obama Dons the Presidential Cloak, and start with “A mysterious thing happened in that speech Tuesday night. By the end of it Barack Obama had become president.”

I don’t know if you can read the article online since the WSJ is subscription-based, so I’ll include two links and a few paragraphs.

Link One

Link Two

“We are not quitters,” Mr. Obama repeated. Then, to Congress, “I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far. . . . But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done.”

Anyway, it was in there somewhere that he became the president. And it wasn’t just bearing or dignity, which he has by nature, it was more mysterious. He put on the cloak.


But the larger point that Mr. Obama had to communicate, and it’s something forgotten or overlooked by political sophisticates, is this: Someone’s in the kitchen. Someone’s cooking. In a time of crisis, someone’s in charge. That’s what he had to demonstrate Tuesday night. And he did. This will do him good.


I think the president, politically, has three big things going for him as he faces this crisis.

First, legitimacy. Our last two presidents were haunted by the circumstances of their election, and significant swathes of the country never fully accepted them. George W. Bush had the cloud of the 2000 recount, and his loss that year of the popular vote; Bill Clinton won in 1992 with only 43% , in a three-man race in which the other two were, essentially, Republican. But no one doubts Mr. Obama’s legitimacy. He won by seven points, with 53%. He’s the first president without the illegitimacy cloud since Bush I.

Second, we’re in the middle of an emergency. In times like this, Americans want their president to succeed. Politically the crisis works for Mr. Obama.

Third is an unspoken public sense that we cannot afford another failed presidency, that we just got through one and a second would be terrible. Americans know how much good a successful presidency does for us in the world, in the public mind. The last unalloyed, inarguable success was Reagan. We need another. Liberal? Conservative? That, to the great middle of America, would, at the moment, be secondary. They want successful. They want “That worked.” They want the foreign visitor to say, “I like your president.” They want to respond, “So do I.”

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